Farm workers are migrant and seasonal immigrants who perform laborious tasks necessary for cultivating and harvesting a large share of our nation's food supply. Alicia Valdez, Vice President of Community Trust Federal Credit Union, is a former farm worker herself.
She immigrated with her family when she was very young. She picked mushrooms for 12 years and then decided to go back to school to study banking, finance, and accounting. Alicia admits that going back to school was difficult because she had spent twelve years doing hard physical labor and was not accustomed to the classroom or office environment. However, she knew she had to persevere. Her work experience in the mushroom fields has provided her with firsthand knowledge of the needs and economic challenges of many of the credit union members. The local spirit of the farm workers has proven to be an equal success of resilience.
After finishing her degree, Alicia was hired to work as a teller at a time when the credit union wanted to recruit and train local staff who knew the farm worker communities well. Alicia's experience, growing up as a farm worker, had attuned her to the needs of her fellow community members. "When I got here [to Apopka, FL]," she states, "there was nothing for my family. No banks had bilingual staff- my family did not speak English. At Community Trust all our employees are bilingual, even trilingual speaking English, Creole and some Spanish. Our members feel more comfortable coming to us. More farm workers are starting to settle down; buying houses instead of leaving every [farming] season. The members come to us to meet both their short and long term needs, including but not limited to car loans, personal loans, and credit builder loans."